Although the term virtual auction can mean many things, we assume a few elements must be present for our purposes: attendees may bid remotely, a video feed of some sort to share a common experience in real-time, and a way for the hosts to interact with the guests/bidders. This can be through a video conferencing service or a direct interaction via web-based connection with the bidders.
When planning your virtual event, it is important to recognize that your audience is not as “captive” as they would be in a ballroom. The ability to keep the audience’s attention is a challenge as they have many distractions and other options besides watching your live broadcast. In an in-room event the audience engagement depends on when you serve your food and how you structure entertainment, live auction, videos and so on. In the virtual world, you can keep your audience’s attention by keeping the program moving with a brisk pace and changing activities, so the audience never feels the program is dragging.
Here are 7 tips to keep your virtual audience tuned in:
Plan a live event of about an hour in length. This can vary but avoid an event that looks to become a marathon. If your audience thinks the event is going to be lengthy, they are likely to not tune in at all. Conversely, if you let your audience know ahead of time (in your pre-event publicity) that the live show is one hour they can plan accordingly.
Publish your start time (and start on time), and 30 minutes before that time start a pre-event show of some kind. This can be a slide show featuring your mission, short video interviews with beneficiaries served, mix in sponsor logos and some uplifting music. The purpose is to assure your audience they are tuned in to the right event.
When you open with a welcome keep it short, use music, remind the audience of your mission, explain what to expect during the live event, and be sure to explain that this is an interactive event and how they can participate. A contest of some kind is also a great way to keep people tuned in. As an example, you could ask trivia questions and have answers electronically submitted. All people who got the answer correct go into a drawing for a nice prize at the end of the show. To make sure they stay tuned in, base some of the trivia questions on what is happening during the live show. In other words, if they are not watching they are likely to miss the question. If you required that all four questions are answered correctly to qualify for the prize, and two of the questions relate to what has happened during the show, you will keep folks engaged!
Follow the live welcome with a snappy video that sets up your mission and reminds your audience how they can support that mission. Have something for them to do on the website where they are watching the show. This could be as simple as a donate button and an announcer making the appeal.
Move between live and pre-recorded activities, switching to something new at least every 3 – 5 minutes. If you plan to take live bids, have the auctioneer spotlight just a few of them, go to a video, come back to the auctioneer, then back to the videos. If you plan to do watch parties, you can switch to a watch party and then back to the auctioneer.
Remind the audience often of how the bidding is going. Do your “Cash Ask” early in the program and then use the balance of the program to remind the audience how they can participate. Show the results often.
Make your event a production. This is accomplished using picture in picture videos, a framed video display, lower third graphics, zooming in and out of camera shots and other techniques that have the audience feeling they are watching a produced show, as if they were tuned in to a live broadcast.
In summary, in order to keep your audience engaged your show needs to be snappy, change views often, and changing often from live to video so the audience has something fresh to look for.
We all are anxious to get back “in room” with our events. It is without question the right way to reward supporters, gain new supporters, and tell your story to a captive audience. Virtual events are a decent interim substitute, but not a permanent replacement. However, if you make your virtual event exciting and engaging you will retain your supporters and eventually as you return to in room galas, they will return with you.